The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been, and always will be,” the godfather of street-style photography Bill Cunningham had once remarked. The 87-year-old veteran breathed his last on June 25. He not only left behind his work, some framed, some published, but also a legacy for all those who consider ordinary people their muses. He inspired hundreds to find fashion in the most unlikely places, away from the glitzy world around the ramp.
Even closer home, his influence has been extensive. “I religiously followed Bill Cunningham’s column on street style in The New York Times. That’s what inspired me to give street-style photography a try. After doing it for three years, I finally got my big break this year. I did a street-style photo story for a luxury magazine. I also got an opportunity to document the street fashion of India for a magazine in London, UK, and one in Milan, Italy,” says Abhimanyu Singh Rathore, who runs a street-style blog called Ishtailista.
Internationally, street-style photography, which includes documenting trends sported by ordinary people on the street, has many takers. American blogger Scott Schuman’s blog, The Sartorialist, and Canadian photographer Tommy Ton’s blog, Jak&Jil, have many hooked. French-American fashion photographer David Luraschi’s signature ‘peep style’ includes capturing candid pictures of people from behind.
Over the years, street-style photography has picked up in India too. Today, you can find ample preening trendsetters getting clicked by photographers outside fashion week venues. “I had always been into candid portrait and street-style photography, and there was a gap in the Indian market for this kind of work,” says Samir Rana of Stylespy.in, who now feels that things have been experiencing a shake-up in this area.
Manou of Wearabout, one of the most popular street-style blogs in India, echoes a similar stance. He says the documentation of street-style has evolved in India over the years, but there’s still a long way to go. “It had definitely evolved, but not in the ways I would have liked it to. Having original content, which includes the subject one chooses to photograph, maintaining the uniqueness of the style of photography and being consistent are all key factors. A lot of people go unnoticed because they take similar photos in a similar style. They also do it not out of real interest, but either because they are hired to do so by magazines or brands, or because they think it is the ‘in thing’ to do,” says Manou. He started taking photos on the streets several years ago, when he was living in McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh. He was also inspired by the Japanese street fashion book, FRUiTS, by Shoichi Aoki.
While Milan, London and New York (USA) are considered the hubs of fashion, and these cities are full of inspiration, Rana feels India is still not there, which, at times, can become a restriction for the photographers here. “The average person on the street in India is still not as well-dressed as compared to those in other cities around the world. But with global brands making international styles more accessible and affordable in India, this is slowly changing,” he says.
The challenges don’t stop there. Asking strangers to pose on the road isn’t a cakewalk either. Rathore says street-style photography can be risky at times, as people get conscious if someone captures them without their consent. “There are times when people get furious if I photograph them. Some have also abused me for the same,” he says, adding that the best solution in such a situation is to delete the picture right away. “A photographer should confess that he/she has taken a picture, and can delete it if they want. Doing street-style photography is no less than an adventure,” he says.
Several times, street style has also inspired designers to create collections. Sana and Sulakshana of the label The Circus say street style has become popular because it reflects a sense of ease and quirkiness, while keeping fashionable trends in mind. “Street style stands for the freedom of imagination. It lets the wearer bend the rules of fashion and create his/her own style statement, which was what we had in mind when we made our first line, The Paradox, which was inspired by it,” says Sana.
Shoe designer Laksheeta Govil of Fizzy Goblet often uses street style as an inspiration for her collections. “We are looking for individuality. What we wear is a perfect conduit for that. Also, street style has become accessible due to platforms like Instagram,” she adds.
Popular Indian street-style blogs